Reconsider dispensary location
I am not one that writes letters to the editor often, but I felt compelled to do so after watching the most recent Benicia City Council meeting. As a teacher in the Benicia Unified School District, I was disheartened when watching the council take action on whether or not to allow cannabis dispensaries in our town. As an educator, I along with my colleagues work hard to teach our students the dangers of drugs. We teach them ways to avoid drugs and situations in their lives in which they might be faced with temptation to try them. Each year, the elementary schools work with the Benicia Police Department to integrate the D.A.R.E. (Drug Awareness Resistance Education) program into our fifth-grade curriculum.
As a student who grew up in the district, apart from taking part in the D.A.R.E. program myself, I was also involved in other programs that served to educate the youth of Benicia of the dangers drugs pose I their lives. In particular, I was the student coordinator who brought the first Every 15 Minutes program to Benicia High.
So when I watched the vote being taken by our City Council about where in town would be appropriate to allow dispensaries to open, I have to say I was a little more than appalled when I heard some of the councilmembers– including our mayor– say that they had no problem with these businesses being any more than a minimum of 600 feet away from schools. While I understand that this distance is what is stated in California law and that marijuana is now legal, I cannot understand how anybody could think it would be appropriate to allow businesses like this that close to our schools where we’re educating students.
Compounding my dismay was the fact that when casting their votes, certain councilmembers did so in a casual manner. To me, this type of nonchalant attitude diminishes the extraordinary amount of hard work that citizens of Benicia, such as myself and fellow educators, have put into educating our youth.
There is a phrase I often use with my students: What is right isn’t always easy, and what is easy isn’t always right. Allowing dispensaries so close to our schools may be legal and therefore, the easy decision to make. However, just because it is easy does not make it the right decision for Benicia. I truly hope that our City Council will strongly reconsider their vote, as it pertains to the location of these businesses, as they move forward in finalizing this ordinance.
5th grade teacher, Joe Henderson Elementary School